Why Ritual is so Important in my Life.
If I may be cliché, allow me to begin with a definition. Bing.com says the definition of Ritual is “a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.” Rituals can range from ones as complex as weddings and funerals to as simple as what you do in the morning to get ready for work.
Why do we do ritual? Our morning rituals make sense. I’m so groggy in the morning that I need to form a habit so I don’t forget anything when I leave for work. But why do we do the more complex rituals? Why bother with the expensive rigmarole of a wedding just for two people to say they want to live together until they die? Why bother with a funeral ceremony for someone who is dead and gone? Why do priests wave their hands in the air when giving blessings? Shouldn’t sparks or some divine light come out of his hands and descend on the blessed? Maybe that DOES happen on some subtle level we cannot see, but the biggest point of ritual is to imprint a habit and programming on our subconscious minds.
The current consensus is that the human consciousness is divided into at least two levels; the self conscious and the sub conscious, and some people add a third division of the super consciousness. The self conscious is in charge of what could be called the manual aspect of one’s consciousness; conscious and purposeful thoughts, the lifting of an arm to grab a mug and bring the drink to your lips, the words you speak, etc. When we were babies and were learning to walk, we had to focus our attention on what muscles to move in order for our legs to mimic our parents’, what muscles to hold so we can keep our balance. As we got better and better at walking, we thought less about specific muscles and specific movements. Now, we can walk without even thinking about it. We built a habit and sent that habit to the subconscious.
Ritual is “a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.
The subconscious is our automatic consciousness, and thank God for it! How awful would it be if we had to consciously tell our jaw muscles to move up and down to chew, to tell each throat muscle to contract as the food goes down, to tell our stomach to churn and produce acid, all this while at the same time telling your heart to pump, your lungs to breath, your eyes to blink. Even when you’re sitting doing nothing, you’re doing A LOT. Your subconscious does all the other stuff so you’re able to focus on one thing. She’s the personal assistant to your CEO.
Your subconscious does more than just control the minutiae of your biology. She controls your automatic thoughts and actions. If you’re walking and your mind is occupied and you turn a corner and see a rope out of the corner of your eye, you may jump. Your subconscious might have thought the rope was a snake and caused you to jump to keep from getting bitten. Often when people have depression, they have the subconscious habit of automatically responding with self deprecating thoughts. Your subconscious isn’t stupid for protecting you from ropes. She isn’t evil for giving you abusive thoughts. The subconscious functions according to her programming.
There’s a relatively new field of science called Epigenetics that has discovered scientifically that memories can be passed down from parent to child through our DNA. As it is new and quite extraordinary, there are many stories and claims about it that are inaccurate, logical conclusions based on evidence, or outright fabrications. I’ll try to go no further than logical conclusions based on evidence and examples that spiritual philosophy has already known for centuries (‘the sins of the father are the sins of the son’ and all that). Deep in our DNA, we remember being attacked by snakes, so we jump when we see anything that could be a snake. We genetically remember becoming ill from bad food, so we gag at bad odors and vomit when others around us vomit just in case we ate the same thing. Children of alcoholics tend to become alcoholics themselves, even if they were raised by different people. I’ve heard that parents who grew up in famine tend to produce obese children (this is one of those more spurious stories). Through our DNA, our ancestors teach us many lessons even before we take our first breath. Habits were so deeply ingrained in our ancestral subconscious that it withstood the test of time and became embedded into our very DNA. You don’t need multiple generations to program your subconscious though. You can reprogram it yourself!
Your subconscious does not speak in words like us self consciousnesses do, she speaks in symbols. When our self conscious is shut off while we are asleep, our subconscious is still at work keeping our heart and lungs going, repairing our body, processing the events of the day, etc. I view dreams as mostly a kind of computer diagnostics process. As the subconscious works, images are brought up and one may be able to analyze those images to get insight into ones psyche. A person who feels burdened in their normal life may have dreams of walking with weights on his ankles. A person who feels they are overly vulnerable may dream about giving a presentation and realizing they are naked. These images are symbols of the state of the psyche. There are other kinds of dreams beside diagnostic, but discussing them would go beyond the scope of this paper. Don’t worry, I’ll get to ritual soon.
As I said, the subconscious speaks in symbol. It would be fantastic if we could wake up to a letter laying next to our pillow that fully details the health of our body and mind, but instead we have symbols that we must decipher. This isn’t so bad. Symbols are relatively universal. Red octagons will cause just about anyone to stop. Pink hearts are almost universally known to mean Love. Money means power. Symbols are so abstract that they can hold a ton of meaning and we find the true meaning based on our gut, our subconscious lets us know the meaning if we listen.
Symbols are also useful because they’re able to sneak past the self conscious and convey meaning to the sub conscious. One of the functions of the self conscious is to protect the subconscious from getting programming that you do not want. Without the filtering function of the self conscious, we would do whatever anyone told us, we would buy every product we see an advertisement for, horror movies would fill us with deep, long lasting feelings of terror and despair. With hypnosis, you’re able to talk directly and plainly to the subconscious because the self conscious is more or less checked out. But outside of trance, you can still program the subconscious by hiding the programming in symbol. The self conscious is entertained by the pretty pictures and the programming walks right by and into the subconscious. You can tell someone a story and they won’t even know you’re affecting their subconscious. Hypnotists sometimes tell clients metaphors or short stories and if they’re skilled or lucky, the client will walk away and never touch a cigarette again or eat healthier or feel less anxious.
Now, why all this talk of symbol and the subconscious?
Scriptorium-monk-at-work. “Monks described this labor of transcribing manuscripts as being ‘like prayer and fasting, a means of correcting one’s unruly passions
Now, why all this talk of symbol and the subconscious? Because the ancients knew about the subconscious and how to program it. Ritual is symbol in motion. The movement and words are not random and meaningless. They are meant to help mold new habits and reactions in the subconscious. There are some rituals that can be done once because the intended results are binary. You’re either married or you aren’t. There’s no in between. Rituals like ones that are meant to develop certain traits are a little different because there are degrees of Kindness; you can be hateful, unkind, neutral, kind, loving, compassionate, saintly. You can’t really be either impatient or patient, scattered or attentive, dumb or smart. So rituals that are done multiple times are meant to imprint the intention deeper and deeper in the subconscious or to grow the intended trait.
The efficacy of a ritual relies on multiple factors. Perhaps I can get into more of the factors in a later paper, but in this paper I’ll only discuss a couple. The potency of a ritual can be affected by how much you show the subconscious that you care about what you are doing. If she sees you going through the motions and getting easily distracted, then chances are she won’t change much. Unless the ritual calls for mirth, making jokes and having side conversations is probably not a great idea. You want to focus, so you’ll probably want to turn off your phone. I am unaware of any rituals that call for the chewing of sunflower seeds. When doing ritual, the ritual is what you should be doing. If you aren’t taking it seriously, there’s probably many other better things to do with your time. Sure, repetition is useful, but one ritual done in earnest will prove more fruitful than multiple lazy rituals.
Emotion is the fuel that drives spiritual work
Emotion is the fuel that drives spiritual work. As the great magician Aleister Crowley said, ‘inflame thyself with prayer!’ Empty actions and empty words are just that: empty. Be aware, though, that you are not going for an acting award. Cringey over acting can be more damaging than half-hearted acting. To be a good ritualist, you want to connect to the ritual, to know WHY you are saying something and to SHOW it. If you are doing a group ritual, your coworkers will feel your passion and will be inspired and create a feedback loop. To feel your intention with your whole being will greatly aid in manifesting your purpose.
Here’s where I want to get a little deeper. If you’re still with me, strap in! To a certain extent, the things you imagine truly happen, at least where your subconscious is concerned. “But I say to you, that whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery already with her in his heart.” This is why you must take your thoughts seriously. If someone upsets you and you fantasize dumping coffee in their lap, you have mentally dumped mental coffee on the mental version of that person’s lap. Even though you physically did NOT do it, your view of that person has changed and could affect how you physically interact with them. I am no advocate of undue guilt and shame, but if you are reading this, it’s likely you are with me on the path of trying to be a good person, so guard your thoughts and bless everyone, especially your enemies as they need blessings the most. Thankfully, mental actions are easier and less concrete than physical actions, so if you slip up and mentally dump coffee on someone, you can easily mentally clean them up and bless them.
Since mental imagery is real (to a certain extent), you can use active imagination to program your subconscious and make ritual more potent. Inflame your ritual with imagery by imagining you’re not in your bedroom or some school gymnasium, but actually in a lush garden or ancient temple. You’re not in pajamas but in pristine robes with jeweled rings and necklaces, bathed in a colorful vibrating aura. You are not alone, you are surrounded by angels or all the seats are filled with brethren. The gestures are not empty but actually produce radiant colors and trace living symbols. You are not doing a routine that you’ve done a thousand times before, you are a divine agent of God performing a sacred duty. Sure, having an active imagination makes things more interesting and helps the time pass, but it also packs the ritual with will and intention. It shows your subconscious that your purpose is important to you, you WANT your wish to be granted. You are filling your head with intention and impressing meaning upon the subconscious.
Finally, going a little deeper, many people believe that ritual connects you with everyone through time and space and dimensions who are connected with that ritual. Saints have seen churches fill with angels when Mass begins. King Solomon, Albert Pike, George Washington, and all other brethren file into the seats when Lodge is opened. Ascended Masters pray with you, Buddhas meditate with you, fellow countrymen sing with you. You are never alone, but you are especially not alone when you work with divine intention. Know that you are in good company and act accordingly.
This is why we do ritual. This is why we must take ritual seriously. We want to connect with the Divine. We want to be better people. We want a better world. When we do ritual, we are affecting the metaphorical Ones and Zeros of the subconscious programming. When I improve, my loved ones improve, my environment improves, the world improves. Ritual is a flapping of butterfly wings that could result in a destructive hurricane or the end of a drought.
Brian Alexander Sears is a Master Mason from Prometheus Lodge #87 in Gilbert, AZ and is an original member of Sapientae Lodge #2 of Ordo Hermeticus Mysteriorum in Chandler, AZ. Brian is a trained hypnotist through the Academy of Professional Hypnosis Training and the National Guild of Hypnotists. With a history of being a part of AMORC, TMO, and BOTA, and being raised Roman Catholic, Brian considers himself a student of Paul Foster Case, Ann Davies, and Dion Fortune, among many others. His interests include ritual, tarot, and Hermeticism in general and hopes to help people to find balance and empowerment through debugging subconscious programming and strengthening our relationship with the Divine.
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